While Martin Lawrence has had box office success in the past, the comedian has also managed his share of low-brow flops and lousy films whose success baffles the mind (did audiences really feel as if they needed to see "Big Momma's House" again?) "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" is a chance for Lawrence to head back int the direction of (at least slightly) more character-driven comedies. It's definitely not Lawrence's best film - that remains his terrific pairing with Tim Robbins in 1997's "Nothing to Lose" - but at least it's a step in the right direction after the lame sequel to "Big Momma".
The film stars Lawrence as RJ Stevens (Martin Lawrence), a successful daytime talk show host who is getting married to the snooty winner of the most recent "Survivor", Bianca (Joy Bryant). Trying to spend time with both Bianca and his young son, Jamaal (Damani Roberts), RJ (originally Roscoe Jenkins) decides to take both of them to his small Georgia town for the family reunion that's going on to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his parents (James Earl Jones, Margaret Avery).
While the reunion starts off with RJ catching up with brother Otis (Michael Clarke Duncan), sister Betty (Mo'Nique) and freeloading cousin Reggie (Mike Epps), childhood jealousy soon returns when cousin Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer) arrives with Lucinda (Nicole Ari Parker), the girl that RJ had a crush on and who he thinks Clyde stole from him when they were young.
The whole thing is as predictable as the day is long (or whatever the phrase is) and two hours is way too long for the material - we know that RJ will realize that Bianca isn't the one for him and that he will smooth out past issues with his father (James Earl Jones).
However, despite the fact that the movie lacks originality and a few of the jokes fall flat, some great one-liners are sprinkled throughout the movie and the cast seems to have a great time delivering the movie's minor-to-mild (the film isn't several big laughs, but instead quite a few smaller ones) laughs. Rather than relying on slapstick (the movie does have several slapstick bits, but there could have been more), the humor is largely generated by the dialogue and performances.
The entire ensemble seems relaxed (Lawrence seems relieved to not have to carry the movie) and have good chemistry with each other. The cast is varied in their style and everyone gets their moment, and the result is even Mo'Nique seems rather funny in small doses here. Even the lessons presented towards the end of the movie don't seem heavy-handed and the drama - while a little rushed - doesn't feel too manipulative.
Overall, "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" isn't anything to write home about, but there's enough to like here, as Lawrence manages to make-up at least partially for some of his recent misses.
VIDEO: "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" is presented by Universal in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Sharpness and detail are often quite good, and I was pleased with the level of fine detail often visible. While a trace or two of edge enhancement was spotted, the picture was otherwise spotless, with no print flaws or other issues. Colors also appeared bright and natural, with fine saturation and no smearing. Flesh tones also remained natural and accurate.
SOUND: "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. As expected, the film sticks with a forward-heavy comedy mix, only involving the surrounds on a few rare occasions in order to provide some slight ambience and occasional reinforcement of the score. Audio quality was fine, with crisp, well-recorded dialogue.
EXTRAS: A whopping 18 minutes of outtakes offers up some hysterical bloopers and some solid chuckles as the cast flubs takes and goes too far off script. There's also a couple of brief "promotional" EPK featurettes, 22 minutes of deleted scenes and an alternate opening.
Final Thoughts:Overall, "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" isn't anything to write home about, but there's enough to like here, as Lawrence manages to make-up at least partially for some of his recent misses. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and a few minor extras. A recommended rental.
The Film B-